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Search Engine Optimization

What is E-A-T? And Why Does it Matter in SEO?

While Google keeps us on our toes with all the SEO buzz going around, one thing remains constant: the need for quality content.

E-A-T is a set of guidelines that spells out what high-quality content needs—a high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

It’s more than just hype—it’s a concept that can make or break your content and reputation, especially if you’re writing content that has a meaningful impact on your readers’ lives, like health or finance. 

For those who are new in the SEO world, you’ll learn more about E-A-T and its vital role in SEO. 

Table Of Contents

What is E-A-T?

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It’s a set of guidelines created by Google for its rating team. E-A-T focuses on pieces of content that include happiness, health, finances, and safety. Topics that fall under these types of content are called YMYL—Your Money or Your Life. 

Let’s break down E-A-T a little further:

Expertise: Any piece of content written by someone with the right credentials, educational background, and qualifications.

Authoritativeness: Any website with an excellent reputation based on a customer’s or client’s feedback and reviews. 

Trustworthiness: Any piece of content built with accurate and reliable information that promotes safety for both customers and clients.

For health websites, failure to follow the standards set by E-A-T can be life-threatening. As for hobby websites, the topics can be discussed from a writer’s point of view and experience, therefore not threatening the readers’ safety. 

Here is a list of the topics that fall under YMYL, according to Google:

  • Civics, government, and law 
  • Finance
  • Groups of People 
  • Health and Safety
  • News on current events and relevant topics (Business, politics, technology)
  • Other issues that involve decision-making (Car loans, fitness, housing, job hunting, and more)

Raters always review topics that fall under YMYL since failure to do so will negatively impact an audience’s happiness, health, financial stability, and safety.

Where Does E-A-T Come From? 

E-A-T comes from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG).

It’s a 168-page document that serves as a standard for human raters to assess the quality (E-A-T) of articles, authors, websites, and web pages. Google hires and pays these human raters to review the quality of search results. 

Besides, E-A-T is specified 135 times in the QRG, making it more important than anything else. Google also updates its QRG frequently, so expect changes and improvements from time to time. 

If we trace back from when it started making noise (August 2018), there are approximately nine confirmed or unconfirmed updates made. 

When Was E-A-T First Introduced? 

Although E-A-T sounds new to some SEO enthusiasts, experts know that the concept existed way back in 2014. 

The QRG has talked about E-A-T for years now, but the concept started making noise last August 2018. We owe this awareness from a core algorithm informally named the Medic Update. The topics most affected were typically about health and medicine, as well as those with YMYL content. (However, these weren’t the only niches affected.)

E-A-T doesn’t just aim to help SEO experts or specialists, but it’s also very beneficial for business owners and regular users who want to explore the world of creating quality web content. 

Is E-A-T Applicable to all Web Pages and Websites?

Not quite. E-A-T is only applicable to web pages and websites containing topics with a practical purpose. How does it work then? Google assigns human raters to do their PQ (page quality) rating. 

During this process, the first step is to check whether a web page or a website has a beneficial purpose. This practical purpose pertains to content that helps users or readers in one way or another, whether for entertainment, knowledge, or awareness. 

After determining if the page has a true purpose, the quality rater decides whether it has a low or high E-A-T level. They usually hold topics that fall under YMYL to a higher standard.

Moreover, E-A-T doesn’t apply to web pages and websites aiming to spread hatred and harm. After all, quality raters typically give such topics the lowest rating.

A Glimpse of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness

To truly understand how E-A-T affects SEO, we need to take a deeper look at each of these parts. In this section, we’re going to break down each aspect of E-A-T in detail.

Let’s get into it.

Expertise

For us to call someone an “expert” on a particular topic, they must have the skills and the knowledge to master it. However, this isn’t how Google takes it. 

You can be an expert on a particular content, but that doesn’t mean it will automatically pass Google’s standards. 

Google looks for what is beyond your expertise, such as:

YMYL Topics

For YMYL Topics, content must be backed up with legal expertise. For instance, a topic focusing on Financial Loans must be written by a licensed Financial Advisor. This requirement is based on what QRG wants. 

It was also highlighted that: “Formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as financial, legal, and medical advice.”

However, if you are a person with day-to-day experience with your chosen topic, you can also be qualified to express your first-hand experience through content. 

Google allows people with “everyday” expertise to write YMYL topics. For instance, a person suffering from a chronic disease for years can share their struggles, winning moments, loss, and any experience they deem to be relevant.

But, remember, when talking about medical advice on particular diseases, it’s still best for a licensed medical professional to do it.

If you breach these areas in your content, consider providing a notice informing the reader that you are not providing medical advice and they should seek out advice from a licensed health professional.

Non-YMYL Topics

Non-YMYL topics pertain to content that isn’t backed up by legal expertise, but rather by day-to-day experience. 

If you are a hobbyist writer who blogs about your daily writer’s block struggles, Google’s QRG will not ask for legal expertise to back you up. Your first-hand experience is enough to consider you an expert in your content. 

Authoritativeness

Digital marketing utilizes the word-of-mouth technique. Readers or audiences view you as someone influential when you share topics with good content. Authoritativeness stems from your reputation and your accountability with whatever you post and submit online. 

Thus, you must protect your online reputation at all times. Google always has its ways to check your reputation. They can go through magazines, blog posts, news articles, forums, discussions, and anything with your online presence.

Trustworthiness

For trustworthiness, Google sets up three considerations to follow:

  • Main content—Is your content accessible, concise, transparent, and based on facts?
  • Content creator—Are you an expert or experienced in writing about the topic?
  • Website—Is it backed up by reliable sources?

When content follows these three considerations, Google will consider it as highly trustworthy. Any highly reliable YMYL website helps readers feel comfortable and safe doing business.

For instance, a medical website discussing the long-term effects of photobiomodulation writes about facts with reliable sources. It’s still crucial for you to anticipate that customers will always seek clinical trials and research sources.

For websites focusing on non-YMYL topics, they don’t have to display too much information. They can show an e-mail address, contact information, and a bit about the writer. While credentials are still valued, they’re not as critical as with YMYL topics.

Should We Consider E-A-T a Ranking Factor?

In the SEO industry, our goal is to remain at a high rank. The question is, “Will E-A-T guarantee your website top rank in Google’s search results?”

E-A-T is not a ranking factor. Also, it’s not something like keywords on your title tag. SEO newbies often question themselves when it comes to considering E-A-T as a ranking factor. 

However, Google states that it has 200+ ranking factors, and E-A-T does not fall on that list. These 200+ ranking factors include backlinks and two of the Core Web Vitals elements, namely, website speed and mobile-friendliness.

Google wants the best experience for the readers to enjoy. With E-A-T being strictly implemented, it helps make it possible for Google to avoid misleading the reader with content that might negatively impact their life. 

By making sure certain content is written with Google’s E-A-T standards in mind, we make an indirect impact on rankings and improve reader experience.

How to Improve E-A-T

Improving your E-A-T will help improve your YMYL website’s presence and reader’s perception of your brand. Here are some things to prioritize:

1. Invest in Personal Branding.

Having a personal brand is essential if you want your page’s quality score to exceed others in your niche.

Readers often rely on reputation reviews created by third parties. It would be best if you protect your brand. If any of your authors have a negative reputation in the industry, this can severely impact your ability to rank well. 

2. Look for experts to create your content.

Above anything else, you’ll want to invest in good writers. A random content creator with little experience shouldn’t be the one creating your content. Instead, consider hiring experience over cheap writers.

To demonstrate high expertise, hire someone with the right credentials, educational background, and qualifications. Most experts aren’t writers—that’s okay. If the expert you want to work with isn’t a content writer, have them work with an editor to make sure content is on point.

This tip isn’t applicable in non-YMYL topics since you don’t always need to hire an expert to write about topics that fall under the non-YMYL category. 

3. Fact-check your claims.

You should fact-check claims and statistics on any part of your website.

Fact-checking isn’t always necessary if you’re simply presenting your opinion or your view on things. But when you make a claim or present statistics, you need a source to back it up.

Since you won’t always have access to studies without paying for access to reports and studies, you can effectively do this by citing credible sources as well. Sharing false information can lead you to be penalized, so make sure your content undergoes thorough checking. 

4. Optimize your About Page.

Your About Page should tell readers what your company does. It’s even best to display your awards, experience, and expertise so readers will not question your credentials. There should also be a part where you can explain why you’re an expert in this field. 

If there’s anything your readers want, it’s a guarantee that they’re taking good advice. Your content impacts your readers’ ability to make decisions in life, so make sure it’s legitimate.

5. Invest in Technical Security.

Trustworthiness is also about making your readers and your authors feel safe with your content. You must invest in technical security that will protect your team and your team’s reputation. Theft is an enemy, and it also exists on the internet. Protect your properties and your reputation from being stolen, copied, or recreated. 

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, Google always wants the best results for a search query to deliver a great reader experience. 

It’s important to remember that we can’t tie E-A-T initiatives to SEO ranking factors. What we can do is to improve E-A-T for the sake of making an indirect impact on our ranking, which allows us to dominate our niche. 

Improving your E-A-T is not just for search engines; it’s also for your readers to have a safe and comfortable searching experience. E-A-T will always continue to be a significant aspect of SEO, and it’ll help us produce high-quality content that ensures that we meet the needs of our audience.

By Zac Almeida

Before joining the team at Ethical Digital, Izaias built a successful SEO agency in São Paolo, Brazil. With over twelve years of experience providing data-driven SEO, he has worked with businesses of all sizes - from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. After selling his business to travel the world with his wife, "The SEO Hustler" has been helping companies in more than 15 countries and 6 languages thrive in the digital and search world.

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